UTEP advances the cybersecurity talent pool



image: Caption: The University of Texas at El Paso to build regional and national cybersecurity workforce capacity, thanks to a $ 4 million grant from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Homeland Security in support of the CyberCorps Scholarship for Service (SFS) program. Salamah Salamah, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of UTEP’s computer science department, left, oversees the program and is seen here advising David Reyes, a doctoral student who has been with the SFS program since its inception.
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Credit: Laura Trejo / UTEP Marketing and communication.

EL PASO, Texas (December 20, 2021) – The University of Texas at El Paso will strengthen the capacity of the regional and national workforce in cybersecurity, thanks to a renewed commitment from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). UTEP’s CyberCorps Scholarship for Service (SFS) program, designed to prepare cybersecurity professionals capable of improving the country’s security and economic competitiveness, received a $ 4 million grant from NSF and DHS .

UTEP’s original SFS program started in 2016 and produced 30 graduates, all of whom secured cybersecurity jobs from government entities.

“This renewal scholarship will support more than 35 computer science (CS) and software engineering graduate students who will enter the government workforce with the knowledge and skills to practice advanced cybersecurity techniques and approaches. “said Salamah Salamah. , Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chairman of the Computer Science Department at UTEP.

The renewal of the CyberCorps scholarship program at UTEP will result in the support of highly qualified students, with an emphasis on Hispanic female and male students. With the original and new SFS program, the CS department at UTEP supported 39 students, 39% of whom were female and 85% Hispanic.

David Reyes, PhD student in computer science, has been part of the SFS program since its inception.

“It was an incredible opportunity,” said Reyes. “Before this program, I was a teaching assistant. So it was sometimes difficult to have to mark exams and follow my own coursework. Now I can fully concentrate and devote my time directly to my studies.

SFS fellows receive a full tuition fee, $ 6,000 for travel, research equipment and supplies, a laptop, books, professional training and certifications, and an annual stipend ($ 34,000 for students graduates and $ 25,000 for undergraduates). In return, they agree to hold a government post in cybersecurity for a period equal to the number of years funded by the program.

“If you are really into cybersecurity and want to learn new things and do interesting work and are passionate about it, you should definitely apply,” said Reyes, who is expected to graduate in December 2022.

“UTEP is uniquely positioned to contribute to efforts to improve the diversity of the cybersecurity workforce due to the population it serves, which includes Hispanic, first-generation and income quartile students. lowest, ”Salamah said.

Over the past five years, UTEP has made significant progress in developing educational programs, research and awareness activities in cybersecurity. These efforts have resulted in several high-level recognitions, including designation by the National Security Agency as an academic center of excellence in cyber defense and cyber operations – only one in 21 across the country – as well as designation as an academic center of excellence in cyber defense and cyber operations. Army-South research laboratory. remote campus in cybersecurity.

The central role of software in the functioning of defense, energy, communication, transportation and manufacturing systems makes it increasingly important that these systems be designed in such a way as to incorporate the principles of cybersecurity, Salamah explained.

UTEP SFS fellows participate in rigorous educational programs and complement knowledge gained in the classroom with meaningful involvement in cybersecurity research, training, competitions and hands-on activities. They are also required to engage in community service to build cybersecurity awareness and capacity among UTEP students and beyond.

The objectives of the UTEP SFS program are:

  • Recruit and retain at least 30 students in the Master of Science in Software Engineering and PhD in Computer Science programs at UTEP.
  • Graduate students who will enter the workforce with the ability to practice advanced cybersecurity techniques and approaches.
  • Place students in government positions that utilize their cybersecurity knowledge and capabilities, with an emphasis on placing graduates in federal / executive entities.
  • Advance cybersecurity awareness and skills among K-12 students and educators.

About the University of Texas at El Paso

The University of Texas at El Paso is the leading Hispanic university in the United States. Located at the western end of Texas, where three states and two countries converge along the Rio Grande, 94% of our more than 24,000 students are minorities, and half are the first in their families to go to the university. UTEP offers 169 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs at America’s only leading open-access research university.

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